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'In a world of fracturing audiences, national events are watched together'

09/02/2017

 

While rugby fans were gripped by the start of the 6 Nations, I was in America during the build-up to the Super Bowl. I love seeing the previews of major sporting events in another country. Even if I don’t understand the rules or care about the outcome, I want to appreciate why it’s important and how people feel involved.

Unlike the FA Cup or the Challenge Cup, it’s not just the Super Bowl, it’s Super Bowl LI. They do love their numbers in America and if they can put them in Latin, so much the better.

I asked a few guys in San Francisco whether they’d be watching the game.

‘Sure, but I don’t really care about the match. I’ll be watching for the adverts.’ Budweiser, Skittles, Heinz, Mercedes and Snickers are among those who paid an average of $5 million for a 30-second slot during which they showcased their new commercials. Snickers took the added risk of doing their advert live and, believe me, everyone was talking about it. This is sport in the 21st century.

There was much anticipation of what Lady Gaga would perform in her halftime show and I got the feeling everyone (certainly in San Francisco) was relieved to have something to talk about other than politics.

In a world of fracturing audiences, national events are one of the few things that people will watch live and watch together. Super Bowl is a social occasion and the Chicago Tribune ran a piece that welcomed ‘collision enthusiasts’ to ‘that special time of year when Americans come together to consume eight million pounds* of squished avocado and occasionally glance at a football game between two teams they don’t care about.’ (*weight, not currency).

I ended up rooting for the Atlanta Falcons, and I was cheering as they led by 25 points. But quarterback Tom Brady inspired his Patriots, and the game went to overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history. Sport has to live up to its price tag, and this game certainly did. The Patriots won and Atlanta hearts were broken.

Yes, I was engaged and interested in Super Bowl LI and by the end I think I even understood the rules.

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